The Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Lethbridge and the Downtown BRZ are teaming up for a new initiative to try to encourage more people to shop local over the holidays this year.
“Our city’s new (motto) is ‘Brighter Together,’” says Cyndi Vos, executive officer of the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce, “and so we really want Lethbridge businesses and our Lethbridge community to bring that to life. And so the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Lethbridge, and the Downtown BRZ have partnered on #ShopLethbridgeYQL.”
Vos says the Christmas season is already a vibrant time of year for city residents, and the new campaign seeks to dial up that feeling even more.
“Lethbridge business really sees a positive effect when people shop local,” she states. “The holiday season is one of those times when people are out and about, and they are shopping, they are eating, and they are taking in events. And when that happens locally, the money stays local. Our employees are benefited, our businesses are benefited, and everybody wins.”
To sweeten the pot, and to make the season all the more merry and bright, the three partner organizations are putting $1,000 worth of downtown shopping credit up for grabs.
The contest closes Jan. 5 and the winner(s) will be announced on social media.
Digital therapy for students
A new digital therapy platform introduced at the University of Lethbridge is set to enhance mental-health services for students, making behavioural therapy more accessible, efficient and effective.
Therapy Assistance Online (TAO) Connect, gives students access to an app providing behavioral health tools on the go, in addition to in-person sessions with U of L Counselling and Career Services. TAO technology is able to be used in two ways: therapists at the counselling centre can individually assign TAO to students as a way to supplement in-person sessions, or students can enrol in the program and download the app for a completely self-guided experience outside of the counselling centre.
“A huge benefit of this platform is that it broadens our reach in terms of being able to provide support to a larger number of students, some of whom are not ready to seek professional help or like to access supports in other modalities,” says Jennifer Ellis-Toddington, manager of Counselling and Career Services at the U of L.
“Another benefit is the self-check component in the app where students can check on their own mental health and, if indicated, that can move them towards getting professional help.”
Students who utilize TAO Connect will have access to a suite of digital behavioral health tools, and also have the option to use the technology in tandem with a U of L counsellor. This will allow for the students to diligently practise the skills and techniques they learn through their counselling session, on their own time.
TAO Connect is available for free to all U of L students by using their U of L email address to register. They can access the platform on the Counselling and Career Services website, or on the Students’ Union website. For more information about TAO, visit TAOConnect.org.
Local real estate perking up
Lethbridge’s housing and real estate market punched above its weight in the province in 2019, out-performing many other jurisdictions. However, there is still room for improvement, say local representatives.
On the home-building front, according to BILD’s provincial report, Lethbridge housing starts clocked in year-over-year, as of the end of November, at an impressive +15.8 per cent, the third-best increase in the province among cities after Red Deer and Grand Prairie. And average sales prices were up 4.9 per cent over 2018 prices, the best in the province. Vacant housing inventory also went down by 6.8 per cent.
BILD Lethbridge executive officer Bridget Mearns says while the numbers appear to be positive, and are in some regards, they must also be looked at in context.
“If we are talking specifically about housing starts, just to give you an example, in 2017 the housing starts year-to-date (at the end of November) was 662,” she says. “Last year there were 487. This year it is 564. So 2018 was a really difficult year for local homebuilders and 2019 has been a really difficult year. Better than 2018, but not really something to be happy about overall.”
“The good news might be that we are doing better than the rest of the province,” Mearns acknowledges. “We are a bright spot in the province in terms of housing markets, but to say things are looking up, when we are comparing them over 2018, I think is over-optimistic.”
11 arrested in stabbing
Police have arrested 11 people in connection to a stabbing late Thursday on the city’s northside.
At about 11:40 p.m. police responded to an assault in the alley in the 200 block of Mayor Magrath Drive North, where they found a resident tending to a 16-year-old boy who had been stabbed. EMS transported the victim to Chinook Regional Hospital and he was later transferred to Calgary for treatment of serious injuries. As of Friday the boy was still in hospital but in stable condition.
Police learned that at about 11:30 p.m. the resident heard a commotion in the alley and saw a group of people running away. The resident heard someone call for help and after going outside to check, found the injured boy and called 911.
Police obtained video surveillance of the incident and a person of interest was identified. Police went to the suspect’s home where 11 people were arrested, including three people who arrived in a vehicle.
Police continue to investigate the incident and all suspects remain in custody. Police reported this was not a random crime, and some of the individuals involved are known to one another.
Tech assistance for Dominica
The Rotary Club of Lethbridge East together with IT for Dominica Foundation recently brought 1,760 Chromebooks, and installed electronics to support their use, in 23 schools on the island nation.
About 90 per cent of public infrastructure was destroyed in Dominica in 2017 after the devastating Category 5 Hurricane Maria struck the island. Since then the island’s government has been working to restore its school system.
“Through that (hurricane) event most of their computer systems and books in the libraries were destroyed,” explains Andrew Bronson, IT for Dominica project lead for the Rotary Club of Lethbridge East. “The IT for Dominica program basically had to reboot them in their schools, and through working with the teachers there.”
The Rotary Club came up with a $150,000 grant to purchase the Chromebooks and necessary support hardware, to ship them by C-Can to the island, and to send technicians down to install them in the schools.
“I would say mission accomplished as 23 schools got hooked up, and when we left the kids were using these Chromebooks,” says Bronson. “It was such a jump from the older-style technologies that got destroyed, and ‘bang,’ they are right up there with some of the top school systems in the Western world. It’s just amazing.”
IT for Dominica president and co-founder Maurice Hollingsworth was in awe of what the technical team and the Rotary Club was able to accomplish in such a short period of time.
Progress in Christmas Hope campaign
For 4,000 Lethbridge area children, Christmas lights will shine a little brighter thanks to five service agencies working together on the Christmas Hope campaign.
About 2,000 financially strapped adults will also be helped this month thanks to public support for the Lethbridge Food Bank, the Interfaith Food Bank, the Salvation Army, Lethbridge Family Services’ Angel Tree program and the My City Care Shop of Wonders.
Because they share resources and clientele, the organizations say they’re able to make the most of their resources while eliminating any duplication of services.
Already, officials say, the five organizations have registered more than 1,170 households hoping for food hampers and for gifts for more than 3,675 local children.
Registration is still open, they add, by contacting one of the five collaborating agencies.
Meanwhile, organizers say the Lethbridge and Interfaith Food Banks both need more food and cash donations as they prepare to distribute food hampers next week.
Toys and other gifts will be distributed later in the month through the Salvation Army, Angel Tree and Shop of Wonders programs, also working from a master list to avoid duplication and to share the workload. Beforehand, the Salvation Army and Shop of Wonders invite parents to choose toys for their children based on age and price categories.
Police probe alleged assault
Lethbridge Police are investigating an incident where a 37-year-old man was allegedly assaulted Friday morning.
At approximately 8:30 a.m. Friday, police say they responded to a report of an assault along the 200 block of 5 Street South. Upon arrival, police say they located a man with injuries to his head.
EMS were immediately contacted and subsequently transported the victim to hospital where he remains in stable condition.
Following further investigation, a suspect was identified and later located along the 1400 block of 2 Avenue North where he was arrested without incident.
Investigation in the matter is ongoing and police are asking anyone who was in the area and may have witnessed the incident to call 403-328-4444.
This was not a random incident as the parties involved are known to one another, police say.